Federal agents with the help of local law enforcement recovered eight “highly endangered” missing children in Indiana last week and arrested one suspect. At least 73 missing children have been recovered nationwide since the beginning of August.
The U.S. Marshals Service announced the conclusion of “Operation Homecoming” in which its officers in southern Indiana partnered with the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force as well as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The operation is the first missing child operation conducted by USMS in the Southern District of Indiana, according to the news release. The one-week initiative ran from Aug. 31 until Sept. 4.
After months of planning and coordination, the operation led to the recovery of children between the ages of 6 and 17. All children recovered during the operation were reported missing by local law enforcement. They are considered to be “some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area” based on “indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sex abuse, physical abuse and medical or mental health conditions.”
They were turned over to the Indiana Department of Child Services for assistance and placement.
One adult, who was not named by USMS, was arrested during the operation and faces charges related to parental kidnapping, intimidation, weapons possession and custodial interference.
“The Marshals are committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children to help prevent their falling victim to crimes of violence and exploitation,” U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Indiana Dan McClain said in a statement.
“The message that we wish to convey to the missing children and their families is that we will use every resource at our disposal to find you.”
Participating officers were given the case files and began investigating the children’s whereabouts by starting with last known addresses, friend’s homes and schools.
The operation in Indiana is one of several missing child operations conducted by the U.S. Marshals Service in coordination with local authorities.
On Aug, 27, the U.S. Marshals Service announced the results of “Operation Not Forgotten” in Georgia. Thirty-nine children were recovered and nine individuals were arrested in connection with their disappearances. Some of those arrested had sex offender violations. The age of the children ranged from 3 to 17, with some being victims of sex trafficking and abuse.
“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we're putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child," USMS Missing Child Unit Chief Darby Kirby said in a statement. “It's hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them the help they need.”
In Ohio, U.S. Marshals helped recover 25 missing children during the first three weeks of “Operation Safety Net” in northern Ohio.
“We’re trying to do our part,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO. “A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out. So again, this is something we take very seriously.”
According to the television news outlet, there are as many as 200 missing children in northeast Ohio. Elliott stated that there have been some cases where there have been mothers and fathers prostituting their children.
Last Friday, USMS announced one missing 14-year-old child in Kansas City, Kansas, was found. The child also had a warrant out for her arrest and was transported to the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center.
Last year, the USMS helped recover 295 missing children with help from local law enforcement.
Since the USMS’ partnership began with NCMEC in 2005, over 1,800 missing children have been recovered.
USMS was authorized to work with local law enforcement agencies through the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. As a result, USMS created the Missing Child Unit to help local law enforcement agencies locate missing children.